In the matter of cannabis cultivation, the first question that comes up is the choice of the medium. Some people prefer growing outdoors in soil; other resort to hydroponic mediums that make it possible to grow marijuana indoors. There are numerous differences between these two approaches, but each one of them has its pros and cons.
You may think that the marijuana cultivated indoors grows in soil, just like it does outdoors. However, today, most mediums are soilless—they are coco-, peat-, and sphagnum-based. So, let us talk about the peculiarities of growing cannabis outside and inside.
There are several aspects that we will touch upon in this article that will help us see the differences.
we have mentioned before, earth topsoil is not used for indoor
growing anymore. However, this medium is used for outside
The most popular choice for outdoor growers is composted soil. Composting accelerates the natural processes, like rotting or decomposition of the organic matter. This activity improves the mineral content, aeration, and moisture retention of the medium. Thus, it affects both its physical and chemical properties. Compost acts as a fertilizer that adds major and minor mineral elements during the growth of the plants.
However, this medium is becoming less and less popular for indoor cultivation nowadays. The amended soilless options are used instead. These mixtures look, feel, and act similarly to soil. In fact, they are special substrates that include amendments like perlite, wood chips, and vermiculite.
Traditionally, hydroponics means cultivating plants without soil. That is why, even though such amended mediums look like soil, they are considered hydroponic substances by definition. You should remember that soilless mixes are not right for any indoor hydroponic system. The most popular indoor setups for them are top-feed hydro systems that rely on drip and spray emitters. The traditional mediums used in such systems are rockwool, HEC, and coco fibers.
Among the main differences between these types of growing are purpose and scale. Indoor setups are recommended for beginners, while commercial gardens are more suited for outside cultivation.
When you finally decide in what medium to grow, it is time to think about nutrients. These mineral powders play a great role in the development of the plant. Usually, nutrient mixes contain three basic elements: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Some also have traces of calcium, iron, and magnesium.
Soilless mixes offer better buffering, which prevents overfeeding that often happens if you use soil. The medium is an important factor to consider when feeding cannabis. The ability to absorb nutrients is determined by the cation-exchange capacity (CEC) that regulates how the plant holds moisture and nutrients. A low CEC can be dangerous for the plant—it can lead to nutrient burn in the roots.
Thus, low-buffering mediums require mild nutrient formulas.
When it comes to feeding, less is better. Be careful with the dosage because even good buffering properties are not always able to save your plant from nutrient lock-up in the root zone. Most synthetic fertilizers lead to salt build-ups. This is why organic nutrients are recommended.
Another thing to keep in mind is the electrical conductivity (EC) that dictates how quickly electrons work their way from probe to probe in a medium. The EC can be measured with a ppm meter. Mediums with higher salt concentrations have higher EC readings. The ppm level is important because it shows us whether the salts in the medium steal water from the plants. The ideal ppm measures range from 600 to 1,200.
The final and maybe the most important question in choosing outdoor or indoor growing is quality vs. quantity. It often happens so that cannabis cultivated indoors gives you yields of higher quality. Of course, many outside plants can show incredible results as well, but such cases are exceptions, not the rule.
In terms of quantity, outdoor plants always win. Due to the almost unlimited space, marijuana can grow as high as it wants thus increasing the amount of yield per plant. However, in order to produce large yields, farmers often have to start the season as early as possible to give cannabis more time for growing. The cultivation includes seven months of hard work and dedication. The amount of time spent on the maintenance is huge, and large fields always require additional labor, which is costly.
Indoor growers, in their turn, mostly cultivate bushier plants in automated hydroponic systems. They are suitable for using various growing techniques. One of the most popular is the “screen of green,” which uses horizontal trellises rolled over the canopy. Many systems are designed in a way that allows the grower to have more free time.
Because indoor growers can control every aspect of the plant's environment and many factors that are crucial to its well-being, they can boost the quality of their yields.
All in all, there are many differences in the cultivation process and the resulted yields of indoor and outdoor grown plants. Undoubtedly, today, indoor systems have many advantages over outdoor growing. However, we all know what the natural warmth of the sun can do to the plant—it tastes better and seems to be filled with that warmth.